Gary Susman
July 23, 2002 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Whoever wins ”American Idol” on Sept. 4 will get to prove his or her musical aptitude in the marketplace right away. Judge and series coproducer Simon Cowell tells Variety that the winner will have a single in stores within three weeks. How can Cowell get the song out so quickly? He’ll record it in advance, with all three of the ultimate finalists recording their own versions, just in case. He describes the song as a power ballad much like Whitney Houston’s ”One Moment in Time.”

The ”Idol” winner, whose first prize is a $1 million recording contract, will have a full CD in stores by Christmas, Cowell says. Don’t feel bad, though, if your favorite contestant doesn’t win. The runner-up will also get to record a single, and a compilation album featuring all 10 finalists is due in October.

Meanwhile, ”Idol” executive producer Simon Fuller has another music series idea: he’s reviving ”The Monkees,” the 1960s NBC sitcom about a prefabricated pop quartet who went on to be real-life pop stars. Variety reports that Fuller is in talks with NBC to launch the series in the fall of 2003, with a new handpicked quartet. He has some experience with this sort of thing. In addition to producing the British version of ”Idol,” he built a teen septet called SClub7 and created a hit TV show around them. Plus, he’s the Professor Utonium who invented the Spice Girls.

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